Thursday, March 4, 2010

Happily misshapen

I’m back from my unplanned blogging hiatus with splendid news! I am now employed as a stuffie-maker! I’m still kind of in shock about the whole thing…here I am, chilling out at home, doing one of the things I most love to do, not wearing pants, and earning money while I’m at it! I’m super excited about making stuffies from this artist’s sketches. He seems to love stuffies as much as I do and has an eye for the strange but cute…exactly what I like!

So this week, I’ve been working on a little owlie for my job, and I’m pretty happy with him. I decided to employ some new techniques for little details that I hadn’t yet had an opportunity to try, and I think he’s definitely just well made if nothing else. I will show some peeks of him on here if I get permission first.

Other work has been letting up a little bit from the past month or so, but I’m finding myself with less free time than I have in the past. I attempt to make the most of what I’ve got, though, and OfficeBear and I are trying to make the most of the predictable and gentle rhythms of a typical day at the office. I’ve noticed my favorite times of day are the simplest: The quiet and thoughtful drive to work, dripping oatmeal on OfficeBear mid-morning, tea and snack time in the afternoon, a shower after I run. I can count on these happy moments daily; they are so satisfying to me.

Last week, I made my final prototype for the first AnchorsAflight managerie: Yellie-phant.

Yellie takes pride in bringing a bit of sunshine into the greyest of days. He is sleepy most of the time, but when he’s hungry, he’ll sniff around for a snack, tasting this and that and whatever comes his way.

I left Yellie to be my last in the menagerie as I could tell he would be challenging. He was, but not as much as I had originally thought. I built up my skills making all of the rest of my friends, and my new knowledge helped greatly in the construction of this pachyderm.

I began by sketching ideas of what the pattern pieces might look like and how I wanted the finished product to look and feel. Then I did my usual process of sketching the pieces on packing paper, cutting them out, and making revisions as I went. When choosing the fabric, I knew I wanted a cute bit of vintage accent fabric for the ears, so I went through my (not big enough yet) vintage scrap fabric stash and found an adorable yellow/orange/green/white 1960s print. The problem was I only had a very small square of it, but I figured I could eek out two ear-insides from that bit. To make the body, I found an old yellow t-shirt of Taty’s and a white t-shirt scrap from my stash for the belly.

I then cut the fabric into my pattern pieces, pinned them all together, and started sewing. I was surprised at how seemingly easy it was to sew everything and the flat version of Yellie looked great:
But I also knew that the only way to determine his real shape was to stuff him. The problem with more complicated patterns (like this one) is that there is more of a chance for warping or just general misshapenness. I was sort of doing this on the fly, just guessing at general shapes and sizes, so I figured I’d have to make some adjustments. Sure enough, when I stuffed him, I could tell his trunk was a little warped off to the side. This was because when I was pinning it, no matter how careful I was, I couldn’t get the pieces to match up exactly. But everything else turned out pretty well…a couple sewing mistakes here and there where my machine was being uncooperative, but overall, not bad for such a complicated project.

Once I put his ears and eyes on and he was all stuffed and squishy, I knew I had a cute one on my hands. His misshapen face has even grown on me; I think it gives him character…like a permanently quizzical look. My last task was to make his tail and sew up his butt. I realized that poor Yellie was having a difficult time standing on his legs because his head was pushed downward a little and he was resting on his trunk, so I pulled the fabric on his back and tucked it so that he would not be resting on his face. This didn’t create the cleanest line, but for the next one I make, I’ll know what pattern revisions to do to avoid that. Plus, who can resist a wrinkly elephant butt, right?
I found this
great tutorial via CRAFT magazine on how to make twisted cord, so I had to try it with orange embroidery thread for his tail. Sure beats braiding!

Yellie is now a permanent fixture around these parts, napping in whatever cozy spot he can find in pillow-crevaces or comforter swirls. He is baby-soft and I under-stuffed him for super squishiness! He's also a great listener:
I hope you like him as much as I do!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

An extraordinary penguin indeed

A month or two ago, when I was sketching up a bunch of stuffie ideas, I of course had to include a penguin, as they are obviously some of the most cuddly and happy animals to stuff-ify. Naturally, I excitedly showed m my newest sketches. When he got to the penguin page, he busted up laughing. I asked him what was so funny, and he read aloud to me the notes I had written:

“Maybe make him an extraordinary penguin like dressed up as another animal (dinosaur?) or with different accessories like cape/mask, etc.”

We both had a good laugh and decided that the extraordinary penguin must come into being. Here he is:

The pengiesaurus may look fearsome at first glance, but all he wants to do is run around flapping his wings, nibbling on goldfish crackers and drinking juice boxes all day. All of this play tires him out quickly, though, so he’s a great napping buddy too.

Making a naked penguin was quite simple, as he is a basic “sandwich” pattern, like the first stuffie I ever made adapted from this pattern from Amber Dusick (perhaps I’ll do a post on him later). I had also made an owl for my mom that had the same concept: one piece for body/head with attached wings and feet. Simple!

The more challenging part was making his little dino costume. I’m finally getting confident with making clothes from scratch rather than hacking thrift store clothes, so I just sort of jumped in and made a pattern, figuring I’d have to make some adjustments as I went along. I couldn’t figure out the shape of the hood, so I searched the internet for hoodie patterns and found the basic outline. Once I cut all of the pattern pieces, I pinned them on my pengie and trimmed the excess fabric to create the perfect fit. I then sewed it all together, installed a zipper in the front a la Gir, and cut wing and foot holes.

Pengiesaurus remained in his baby blue onesie for quite a while…I loved him so much just like that, and I started in on other projects, but eventually I knew he needed his dino-spikes. I had at first thought I might use the same technique of rolling up felt to make his spikes like Whally’s horn, but when I tried that, it was a lot of work and the spikes were too skinny, even when using quite a bit of felt. So I tried plan B, which was to make them kind of like the hearts for my Love Nimbus: I cut out 2 triangles, then blanket stitched them together with contrasting embroidery thread, stuffed them, and sewed them onto the onesie.

I learned the hard way that Pengie should probably take his dino outfit off before I stitched on the spikes. When I sewed on his tail, I accidentally sewed it to his butt! Even though not having a substantial thing to sew onto was a little fiddly, the spikes turned out great and now he is a fierce looking extraordinary dino-penguin indeed! Grawr!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Life's not gloomy when you're a shroomie!

Unfortunately, last week was not conducive to stuffie-making, as my time at work was taken up with, well, actual work. I know: poor me, slaving away in front of a computer all day, making spreadsheets and answering phones. Doubly unfortunate is the forecast for this week doesn’t look much better. Instead of daydreaming and sketching and sewing, I have to calculate, collate, and frustrate. Luckily, I’ve got my bestest office buddy helping me take care of business: OfficeBear!
OfficeBear deserves his own post at a later date, but for now I will let you know that he’s what makes work days tolerable (bearable!?) for me. No, I didn’t make him, but I love him like one of my own. I drip oatmeal on his head every morning, we go on adventures, and sometimes steal little naps in the afternoon (shhhh!).

I didn’t get any stuffies even started last week, but I do still have a couple I haven’t shown you yet. I present to you: Squat the Shroommate!

Squat likes to root himself under the largest, dampest, and darkest tree he can find in the forest. He is happiest under a blanket of rotting leaves, dreaming shroomie dreams and making friends with the small grey slugs who share his bed. He adamantly denies the existence of fairies or anything of the sort prancing under the protection of his spotted head, but the slugs tell otherwise…

As I have mentioned (and linked to) in my Squidlet post, I made a few of these toadstool ornaments this holiday season and have since decided that shroomies are just too cute to make once. I knew at the outset of this project that I couldn’t (and didn’t want to) just copy the toadstool design and make it larger…I wanted something with weight, shape, and cuddle potential. The shroommate is what I came up with.

His stump and underside are made out of my sister’s old sweater from junior high, and his cap is made of one of Taty’s old t-shirts. His face and spots are felt. I wanted him to be able to stand up on his own, so I stuffed his stump with rice. I like the feel of it, but I’m going to need to troubleshoot this a little bit. If you mold him right, he stands up on his own, but if you just set him down anywhere, his head will flop over. I think next time I will add a roll of felt or something to his core to stiffen it a bit while still adding some rice for weight.

In my original sketches, I thought of folding some fabric in a fan shape to make realistic looking “gills” like mushrooms have, but when I ended up choosing the sweater for fabric, I realized the ribbing in the fabric gave a bit of a “gilled” effect. Perhaps I’ll try that technique with a different design, though…it seems labor intensive but probably worth it.

All in all, I’m pretty happy with my little guy and plan on making more. I like how his face looks kind of Japanese-cute and how on accident the base of his stump formed two “feet” (the ribbing in the sweater stretched kind of weird, but a happy accident!).

I’ll do my best to continue with the regular updates, even though this week still looks pretty grim on the stuffie productivity front. I’m almost done with my first prototype menagerie, though, and I couldn’t be happier (or squealier!)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Looks like a storm's a-comin

I was drifting about my head last week whilst wiling another day at the office away, mindlessly sketching silly nothings, when I came up with this:

And I thought to myself, “Self, I believe this would make a splendid stuffie.” So I got to work figuring out the logistics: what fabrics to use, how to make the hearts, how to sew in a pocket for the hearts to come from, etc. In true “I must do this before the inspiration fades” fashion, I dropped my intended projects for the week and went straight to the thrift store to acquire some cheap grey fleece.

Somehow, I wasn’t surprised there were several grey fleece pullovers from which to choose. I decided on the biggest, softest, cheapest one and decided that should this project go well, I shan’t be wanting for more grey fleece. Thank you, performance fleece fad of the ‘90s!

That night, I set to work cutting out my cloud shape (out of habit, I started to cut a pattern out of packing paper, but then I thought, who am I kidding, it’s a CLOUD and decided to free-form it).

In my initial planning for this project (which was quite brief), I hadn’t even considered there would be pockets in whatever fleece garment I was going to purchase for fabric, so I assumed that I’d need to install a zipper and make my own pocket for the mouth, etc. But as I was inspecting my pullover, I had an “aha!” moment when I realized—hell, I can just cut out one of the pockets and sew it right in! So that’s what I did…no pocket-making, no zipper-installing. Cake.
It was a little tricky to sew up the cloud close enough to the pocket being careful not to sew the pocket closed, so I finished it up with a little hand stitching. Then I stuffed the whole thing full of stuffin’ and got to the fun part: the hearts!

I actually wasn’t sure I had enough red felt to make the hearts, so I originally tried making them out of an old red t-shirt, but after sewing up a couple of misshapen red blobs, I decided to make do with what I had of the felt. I simply cut out 2 heart shapes and sewed them together with embroidery thread using a blanket stitch. When I was just about finished sewing the heart, I stuffed it with a little stuffin’ then finished the job. It was kind of fun to be surrounded by little red hearts on my BART rides to and from the city, but even so, nobody would sit next to me…could it be the large pair of crafting scissors I wielded in my deftly working hands?
The finishing touch was sewing on his two huge mismatched eyes, and, telltale to all successful stuffies, I squealed at the sight of him and immediately had to cuddle him. The best part was going home to bring little love-showers to my loved ones.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Please take care of my red bunny bat

My twin told me today I was slacking on the blogging, so I’m getting right on it. I had a lovely birthday weekend, full of friends and food and fun but not much stuffie-making. Now it’s back to the ol’ grind, dreaming up, drawing up, and sewing up some cuddly friends.

I’m still pretty behind on blogging, but catching up slowly. Here is actually the second stuffie I made for this menagerie: The elusive bunny bat is a rare creature, only poking his long ears out of his underground cave when he hears Kepi rockin out with his band or gets hungry for a burrito. He gets mischievous on nights when the moon is merely a fingernail in the sky, veiling his pranks in darkness.

I’m not gonna lie…bunny bat was at times a pain in the ass to make (I suppose in typical wily bunny bat fashion). I was diving into territory I’d never seen before, so the process was great for learning. He was my first experimentation in 3-panel head construction, which required quite a few adjustments: turn, stuff, reject, unstuff, turn, re-sew…you know the deal. I also realized that I wanted more of a triangle shaped body rather than a square one, and I miscalculated the size of his body to be proportionate with the size of his head, so that took quite a few adjustments too. I was about halfway through the project when I almost quit and started over, but then decided to press on, as I was at least learning what NOT to do. And as I continued working and working at it, I actually grew to like the little guy, especially when he got his bunny hat (which was surprisingly easy to make…felt, cereal box, wire). Then, when he got his eyes and nose, I just kind of had to hug him.

I used my own bunny hat as a guide to make his, as well as the bat wings I made several months ago out of metal clothes hangers, felt, and embroidery thread. Being a bunny bat is one of my favorite states of being. Everyone who sees me in that state is either really happy to see me or really puzzled, and either way I like it. That bunny hat has seen some fantastic times:

And now I have a new stuffie friend with whom to share bunny-bat-ness!